Management of chronic pain in elderly, frail patients: finding a suitable, personalized method of control

Clin Interv Aging. 2013;8:37-46. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S30165. Epub 2013 Jan 16.


The elderly population is projected to make up 20% of the total United States population by the year 2030. In addition, epidemiological data suggests increasing prevalence of chronic pain and frailty with advancing age. Pain, being a subjective symptom, is challenging to manage effectively. This is more so in elderly populations with age-specific physiological changes that affect drug action and metabolism. Elderly patients are also more likely to have multiple chronic health pathologies, declining function, and frailty. The barriers present for patients, providers, and health systems also negatively impact efficient and effective pain control. These factors result in disproportionate utilization of health resources by the older population group. The scientific literature is lagging behind in age-specific studies for the elderly population. As a result, there is a lack of age-specific standardized management guidelines for various health problems, including chronic pain. Increasing efforts are now being directed to studies on pain control in the elderly. However, pain management remains inconsistent and suboptimal. This article is an attempt to suggest an informed, comprehensive guide to achieve effective pain control in the presence of these limitations.

Keywords: chronic pain; elderly; frailty; geriatric pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy*
  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology
  • Chronic Pain / therapy
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Perception / physiology
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Prevalence


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid